Friday, September 9, 2016

Internship in a Regional Museum: Jackson, Missouri

Michael Cervantes explains his recent experience as an intern at the Cape County History Center in Jackson, Missouri. Michael is currently a Graduate student at Southeast Missouri State University in the Public History program, focusing in Latin American studies. Michael intends to pursue work in archives or museums upon graduation.

My internship was at the Cape County History Center in Jackson, Missouri. The internship took place during summer 2016, from May to August. The Cape Girardeau County History Center is administered and funded by the Cape Girardeau County Historical Society, and is supervised by Director Carla Jordan. The center displays historic exhibitions interpreting Cape Girardeau County’s history, and acts as an event/meeting facility for history related groups and functions. The center is held within a historically restored building on the National Register of Historic Places within the Historic District in uptown Jackson, Missouri.

The scope of my position as an intern was broad in nature. Some responsibilities included exhibit cleaning, exhibit setup and dissembling, and storage. On a weekly basis, I assisted in inventorying the gift shop, as well managed money for purchased items. I also aided Ms. Jordan with summer bus tours, and assisted tour visitors with historical and exhibit related questions. My project as an intern involved physically transplanting an archival library, including moving shelving and cataloging book/paper sources. I had the privilege of sitting in on informal meetings with the historical society and Jackson community members to discuss events and city planning. Last, I assisted during events, communicated with visitors and answered any questions, and kept the facility presentable by cleaning.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my summer internship experience at the Cape County History Center. Director Carla Jordan provided a professional learning experience that I hope to reflect back on when applying for employment after graduation. Under the guidance of Carla Jordan, I learned valued skills required when working in a regional museum. Perhaps the most valuable token gathered from having completed this internship is the knowledge of the sheer scope of a director’s position at a regional museum. The job requires a diverse collection of skills and abilities, many of which are not necessarily honed from having studied history. Duties in a position such as Jordan’s may include the following…: exhibit development and assembly, event planning, donation acquisition, marketing, public speaking, volunteer/employee management, as well as serving as a liaison between the historical society and community members.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Graduate Assistant in State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center

Currently, I am the graduate assistant for the history department in The State Historical Society of Missouri’s research center on Southeast Missouri State University’s campus in Cape Girardeau. I have been in this position since January 2015. It has been a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. Through this opportunity, I have had many experiences and made several contacts that will help me in my future career.

For me, the best parts include the daily routine of assisting researchers and working with the collections.  This experience will help my future career because it has given me hands-on experience.  It is always great to help a genealogist find a lost relative or a student with their research paper.  And assisting the center’s archivist with collections has given me the opportunity to prepare collections for researchers.  I have made important contacts in my role as the graduate assistant in this office.  For example, when Missouri Preservation had its 2015 conference in Cape Girardeau, I administered the State Historical Society’s exhibit table, meeting preservation professionals.  There have been several great experiences and learning opportunities here as well.  During my term as graduate assistant, the Historical Society hired an archivist for the Cape Girardeau center.  The center has evolved into a busy research center implementing standard archival procedures for existing collections.    

By having this job while I was in graduate school, I know when I apply for positions in the future I will have experiences and contacts that will help me.  The knowledge and hands-on experience I have gained in standard archival procedure and reference assistance have provided me with experience I can put on my resume.  This position has opened the door to my future career.